Friday, May 29, 2020

An Open Reply to Our Moderator Regarding His Pastoral Letter of Encouragement unto Public Worship

I wrote the following letter this morning. 

It is brief of necessity, because I expect that not all response to our Moderator's letter will be positive, and I wished to reply with encouragement as quickly as possible. There is so much more that I could have said about the thinking of our Session (and myself), our hunger to hear other ministers of the gospel speak similarly from Scripture, etc.

I make my letter "open" for similar reasons. Since there may be other voices that push back against him, I wish to be public in my support for our Morderator's wise and biblically prioritized counsel:
Dear Dr. Holmes,

I almost wept with joy upon reading your letter yesterday, brother. 

It has been a lonely time for me and the few other ARP ministers who thought that public worship is not something that we may cancel, and that if in trying to gather the Lord positively prevented us from being able to do so, that this would be a time for great mourning, regardless of what other measures might be taken for some semblance of continuing the means of grace without that public worship.

In all that was said and written, there was very little about the priority of the first table of the law over the second, the place of public worship and the Lord's Day in the will of Christ for His disciples and His church, the risk-worthiness of public worship, and especially the glory that is due unto God in the manner that He Himself says glorifies Him. 

The man-centeredness of even most of the careful and thoughtful commentary was cause for much reflection upon where our own congregation and lives have been man-centered in a way that we just couldn't see. We cried out to God to help us see and repent. And, God helping us, we have some areas in which our congregation will be reforming as a result.

But, as I said, we felt extremely lonely in our refusal to give up gathering for the public worship of God, and our viewing this as a call to REPENTANCE FROM innovation in worship (as opposed to new LICENSE TO innovate in worship). We reached a point where, as our Session and congregation prayed for the church generally and our Synod specifically, we did so with great grief, pleading with God to stir our hearts up toward Him and His worship. 

Your letter has been a part of the Lord's answer to that prayer. 

And now, I find myself able to pray not only that the Lord would bring us back to His inerrant and sufficient and authoritative word in Scripture; but, also that He would grant us humility and unity in heeding the edifying and encouraging letter from His servant who has stood upon the Scriptures to write so helpfully to us.

With thanks and prayer to our great and gracious God for you, I remain your co-laborer in the gospel ministry,

Pastor James Hakim
Hopewell ARP Church
Culleoka, Tennessee

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

A Short Christian Directory from Samuel Rutherford

The following is taken from the BoT reprint of the 1891 edition of Rutherford's Letters. In letter 159 to John Fleming, he's replying to Fleming's request that he write a full directory for Christian conduct and life. Rutherford declines, saying that others have done that as well as he can, but does give a brief summary of advice for the Christian life. I found it spiritually profitable and hope that any readers that I might have would also find it so.

I will show you what I would have done myself; though, alas! I always come short of my purpose.
1. That hours of the day, less or more time, for the word and prayer, be given to God; not sparing the twelfth hour, or mid-day; howbeit it should then be the shorter time.
2. In the midst of worldly employments, there should be some thoughts of sin, death, judgment, and eternity, with at least a word or two of ejaculatory prayer to God.
3. To beware of wandering of heart in private prayer.
4. Not to grudge, howbeit ye come from prayer without sense of joy. Downcasting, sense of guiltiness, and hunger, are often best for us.
5. That the Lord's-day, from morning to night, be spent always either in public or private worship.
6. That words be observed, wandering and idle thoughts be avoided, sudden anger and desire of revenge, even of such as persecute the truth, be guarded against; for we often mix our zeal with our own wild-fire.
7. That known, discovered, and revealed sins, that are against the conscience, be eschewed, as most dangerous preparatives to hardness of heart.
8. That in dealing with men, faith and truth in covenants and trafficking be regarded, that we deal with all men in sincerity; that conscience be made of idle and lying words; and that our carriage be
such, as that they who see it may speak honourably of our sweet Master and profession.

9. I have been much challenged—
1. For not referring all to God, as the last end: that I do not eat, drink, sleep, journey, speak and think for God.
2. That I have not benefited by good company; and that I left not some word of conviction, even upon natural and wicked men; as, by reproving swearing in them; or because of being a silent witness to their loose carriage; and because I intended not in all companies to do good.
3. That the woes and calamities of the kirk, and of particular professors, have not sufficiently moved me.
4. That at the reading of the lives of David, Paul, and the like, when it humbled me, I (coming so far short of their holiness) laboured not to imitate them, afar off at least, according to the measure of God's grace.
5. That unrepented sins of youth were not looked to, and lamented for.
6. That sudden stirrings of pride, lust, revenge, love of honours, were not resisted and mourned for.
7. That my charity was cold.
8. That the experiences I had of God's hearing me, in this and the other particular, being gathered, yet in the new trouble I had always (once at least) my faith to seek, as if I were to begin at A, B, C again.
9. That I have not more boldly contradicted the enemies speaking against the truth; either in public church meetings, or at tables, or ordinary conference.
10. That in great troubles I have received false reports of Christ's love, and misbelieved Him in His chastening; whereas the event hath said, "All was in mercy."
11. Nothing more moveth me, and weighteth my soul, than that I could never from my heart, in my prosperity, so wrestle in prayer with God, nor be so dead to the world, so hungry and so sick of love for Christ, so heavenly minded, as when ten stone-weight of a heavy cross was upon me.
12. That the cross extorted vows of new obedience, which ease hath blown away, as chaff before the wind.
13. That practice was so short and narrow, and light so long and broad.
14. That death had not been often meditated upon.
15. That I have not been careful of gaining others to Christ.
16. That my grace and gifts bring forth little or no thankfulness.

There are some things, also, whereby I have been helped as—
1. I have been benefited by riding alone in a long journey, in giving that time to prayer.
2. By abstinence, and giving days to God.
3. By praying for others; for by making an errand to God for them, I have gotten something for myself.
4. I have been really confirmed, in many particulars, that God heareth prayers; and, therefore, I used to pray for anything, of how little importance soever.
5. He enabled me to make no question, that this mocked way, which is nicknamed, is the only way to heaven.

Sir, these and many more occurrences in your life, should be looked into; and,
1. Thoughts of Atheism should be watched over, as, "If there be a God in heaven??" which will trouble and assault the best at some times.
2. Growth in grace should be cared for above all things; and falling from our first love mourned for.
3. Conscience made of praying for the enemies, who are blinded.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

God Is Not So Careless and Easy as We Are about Church Attendance and Membership

Hebrews 10:29–31
Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has TRAMPLED THE SON OF GOD UNDERFOOT, COUNTED THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT BY WHICH HE WAS CONSECRATED A COMMON THING, AND INSULTED THE SPIRIT OF GRACE? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.